For the most part, Short Story writing is about telling a story. Needless to say, before we sit down to write a story, we need to learn how to spot it. Spotting the tale requires getting in touch with two of our faculties – Observation and Imagination. In order to write, we need to observe the stories waiting to be told by the simple incidents around us and then give them the shape of one, through imagination.
While all of us possess the two skills in abundance, we often forget to bring them to life in our effort to keep up with the fast pace of our own existence. We are so busy getting things done all the time that we don’t even talk to ourselves anymore. The moment we start talking to ourselves, we would realize how truly creative we are. We would learn what stories we’d like to tell, and eventually tell them too. All we need to do is keep our eyes open to the world outside, and our ears open to our mind.
Let’s take a look at a small incident (perhaps part of the daily routine for most of us). You are sitting in a Metro all alone, surrounded by complete strangers; some, friendly, some cautious, but all of them complacent in their own lives and their expectations of the day ahead of them. You have nothing to do, so you decide to look at everyone around, just for the sake of passing your time. You see hundreds of people around you, struggling to pass their time just like you, looking at each other and, at times, judging each other too. You use your observation to spot a girl, staring at the screen of her cell phone, smiling amidst the crowd, oblivious of its presence. After you have captured the potential of a story in something as mundane as a girl smiling at her mobile in a Metro, you have to put in all your might to fight the natural instinct of judging it, or her because of it. This is where imagination steps in.
Our imagination helps us stay away from futile judgement and play with the prospect of developing a story out of something as ordinary (seemingly so) as the example cited above. The reasons we ascribe her smile to, might not be even remotely close to hers. But that’s the point. They don’t have to be. Our writing has to be based on something we feel strongly about. We can spin a heartwarming romantic tale around her smile if we imagine the message to be from the love of her life, or a charming comedy if it is from her BFF. It totally depends on us. It is our narrative after all. The moment we figure out why the girl is smiling, we have sown the seeds of the tale in our mind.
Small things that we hardly pay attention to – like a child crying, a dog barking, a mother making dinner for her kids – hold the promise of being transformed into great stories. We only have to spot it once, and the tale will happily tell itself, through us.